Pass fraud skyrockets in Vail |

Pass fraud skyrockets in Vail

Steve LynnVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

VAIL Johnny Schleper encourages people to avoid using someone else’s season pass at Vail. Schleper always refuses friends who ask to use his pass when they visit, he said.”I know it’s an $85 lift ticket, but if you get caught, it’s like a $1,000 dollar fine,” said Schleper, manager at Buzz’s Boards. “It’s just not worth it.”Ski pass fraud has more than doubled this season on Vail Mountain, according to the Vail Police Department. Vail police caught 133 people fraudulently using a ski pass this season, said Kris Cureau, records manager for the Vail Police Department. Last season’s total was 64, said Detective Sgt. Craig Bettis for the Vail Police Department. Vail police and Vail Resorts attribute the increase to alert employees and more passes sold. Improved training for scanners and larger photos are responsible for preventing more people from going skiing with someone else’s season pass, said Vail Mountain spokeswoman Jen Brown. Ticket scanners also may quiz skiers on personal information such as a birth dates and addresses that appear on an electronic scanner’s display, she said.Vail is working on improved technology for the future, but Brown would not discuss specifics.Greg Spielberg, a Vail resident who worked as a ticket scanner during the 2004-2005 season, said ticket scanners received $60 for each fraudulently used season pass they found. Brown confirmed Vail gives its employees a financial incentive, but she refused to say how much. Some out-of-towners who crash on their friends’ floors might skirt the $85 lift ticket for an affordable vacation, said Jason Peters, shop technician for Pepi Sports in Vail.”Why does someone steal an iPod?” Peters said. “Because they can’t afford it.” Some groups of people split the cost of a lift ticket and make it to the Back Bowls one-by-one by sharing the ticket, Peters said. If caught, those people also would be ticketed for “deceptive use of a ski facility” – as it’s officially called. The fine for the infraction varies widely. Judges have fined offenders between $75 and the maximum $999, Bettis said. A rise in pass sales may have contributed to this season’s surge in arrests. In its first quarter, August-October 2006, Vail Resorts reported a 21 percent increase in season pass sales compared to the same period in 2005.Only two fraudulent uses of ski passes were reported at Beaver Creek this season, said Sara Cross, a spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

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